Two Paqtnkek athletes to run in Cayman Islands half-marathon
Charlie Ashawasegai and Haley Paul like to run. They like it so much, that it’s the reason they’re going to be running in the halfmarathon event at the Cayman Islands 2018 Intertrust Cayman Islands Marathon.
Linda Peters, physical activity leadership coordinator with Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation, was effusive in her praise of the running prowess of Charlie and Haley, noting they are an inspiration with their dedication to the sport.
"Haley has always been active in the community, through sports and recreation. She plays hockey in the rec league and has been into hockey all her life. As long as I can remember, she’s been on the ice," Peters said, noting that Haley’s natural athleticism helped her develop the endurance required to run long distances.
Haley, the 2017 athlete of the year in Paqtnkek, also has the discipline to train for a marathon – she recently completed the
Black Bear Program over the summer; a six-week Indigenous primary reserve basic military training course.
"She lost her mom pretty suddenly to cancer, and despite the hardship that meant, she still excels," said Peters. "She’s in academic classes, and works hard."
Peters noted that Charlie has also benefitted from the demands of a steady training schedule, as well. Through his running training, Charlie was able to discover the tremendous capacity for long distance running he has – and gained mental focus he has been seeking all his life.
"I asked him, ‘what is the best thing you get out of all of this?’ He thought about this for a second, and said, ‘I get my mind. I have control over my thoughts and can finish a thought,’" Peters said. "Charlie has ADHD, and has always struggled to keep up with team sports, schedules – stuff like that. This is something he can do on his own, and he can focus on it. He thrives from what he is doing."
Peters said that Charlie – her nephew – has gone from someone constantly being disciplined and lectured for getting into situations at school, is now being lavished with well-earned positive attention for his accomplishments.
"They’re all congratulating him for running. Last week, he ran 18 km, and he’s high-fiving teachers, and they’re all praising him," Peters said. "You see the changes in him everywhere because of this – it’s pretty cool."
Peters said that not only has running helped Charlie cultivate discipline – he’s become incredibly ambitious as a result of his success.
"He did his first 10k run, knocks on my door drenched in sweat and screamed, ‘Aunty, I just ran 10K.’ I didn’t even get to say anything, because he turned around and kept running. I was like, ‘Wow, that kid just ran 10 k. and it didn’t even phase him,’" Peters said. "He just turned around and kept running."
After completing 10K, Charlie told Peters he wants to run a full marathon – a staggering 42 km.
"He’s only signed up for the half-marathon, but that’s where he is. His mind is already there, at the full-marathon-level," Peters said.
Making it happenhaley
Charlie’s trip to the Cayman Islands is, in part, being made a reality by the Healthy Horizons program – one that provides structure and funding to the plans for the two young runners to travel to the half-marathon.
Much of the work through the program is coordinated by Maggie Macdonnell, a teacher who has a history of being able to make things happen with student athletes.
Macdonnell, a 2017 Global Teacher Prize recipient and East Antigonish Education Centre/ Academy [EACA] graduate, provided $5,000 in funding for Haley to attend the Cayman Islands Half-marathon, Dec. 2, 2018.
Since July, Paqtnkek and EACA have been working with Macdonnell to co-ordinate the project and arrange for Charlie and Haley to travel to the Caymans.
Macdonnell is no stranger to making it happen. She has done very similar work with Indigenous students in Salluit, Quebec, encouraging a similar love of running in students in the remote northern Quebec community.
While Haley is entirely sponsored through Macdonnell, Charlie sought the support of a local business in the Paqtnkek/ Monastery area, so he too could participate in the half-marathon. He drafted a letter requesting financial assistance from Joe Jellow, owner of the Monastery Petro-canada service centre. Jellow agreed, and is providing sponsorship for Charlie.
Since all the fundraising for participation in the marathon is done, Peters said the remainder of the fundraising is just for food and accommodations while the runners are in the Caymans.
Some fundraising remains to be done, and the community is rallying behind its two top runners, with an assortment of activities to support them; ranging from the sale of community dinners, to the sale of ticks for a quilt Charlie’s mother made during a recent powwow.
Both Charlie and Haley are naturally talented runners whose skill has had a beneficial sideeffect. In their training, Charlie and Haley have inspired fellow students to join in on the fun, and run. This eventually became a more formal arrangement, with Charlie and Haley starting a lunchtime running group, putting in some miles over their lunch break.
"They meet during lunchtime – there’s a trail near the school – and they help other kids run that," Peters said.
In an email, Marsha Purcell, a teacher at EACA, wrote that Charlie and Haley’s athletic activity and the activity it is inspiring in their peers, are paying off through "improved resilience and school perseverance" in students, who are partaking in the lunchtime running and doing better, academically.
"Our two runners are acting as visible healthy role models in the school and in their community, running four to five times a week," Purcell wrote. "These two students are encouraging others to run with them after school and recruiting youngers students to join our lunchtime run club," Purcell said.
"Already youth and community members are saying that they want to be part of this project, next year. We plan on celebrating the students’ half-marathon success with a school rally and a presentation on their training, the benefits and the trip."